cinquain (SIN-cain): an unrhymed poem consisting of five lines arranged in a special way.
Spinning, whirling, twirling
Dances with neighbor Jupiter
A cinquain is an example of shape poetry. Because of the exact number of words required for each line of this poem, a unique, symmetrical shape is created from interesting, descriptive words. And what better time to learn how to write a cinquain than during National Poetry Month!
The word cinquain comes from the Latin root for “five.” Notice that the cinquain has five lines that follow this sequence:
Line A: One vague or general one-word subject or topic
Line B: Two vivid adjectives that describe the topic
Line C: Three interesting -ing action verbs that fit the topic
Line D: Four-word phrase that captures feeling about the topic
Line E: A very specific term that explains Line A
Here’s another example:
Preening, searching, stalking
Waits as if praying
Use the tips below to brainstorm on blank paper for different ideas. Then follow the directions to learn how to write a cinquain poem of your own. When possible, try to use poetic devices like alliteration, onomatopoeia, or personification. Because the poem has a limited number of words, choose each word carefully!
Word Pair Ideas: General topic / specific topic
- bird / parrot (or crow, canary, dove)
- fruit / apple (or pear, banana, watermelon, peach, etc.)
- season / spring (or summer, fall, autumn, winter)
- winter / January (or spring / April, summer / July, autumn / October)
- candy / jawbreaker (or Snickers, jelly beans, licorice)
- storm / tornado (or hurricane, blizzard, squall)
- water / river (or ocean, lake, stream, creek)
- grandparent / Nana (or Grandma, Papa, Pops)
Line A: Name a general topic (see suggestions above for ideas).
Line E: Rename your topic, being more specific. This will be the last line of your cinquain.
Line B: Brainstorm 5-6 vivid, concrete adjectives to describe the topic on Line E. Do not choose words that end in “-ing.”
Line C: Brainstorm 5-6 descriptive participles (verbs ending in -ing) that fit the topic on Line E.
Line D: Brainstorm several four-word phrases that capture some feeling about the topic on Line E. Follow these tips to develop an effective phrase:
- Do not use any “to be” verbs or vague words.
- Do not repeat any words used elsewhere in the cinquain.
- If you can’t think of something, using a combination of adjective + noun + verb + adverb will often help you come up with the most concrete phrase possible.
Write Your Cinquain
- Pick out your most descriptive words from your brainstorming and put your cinquain together.
- Your cinquain should have 5 lines and the finished poem should only have 11 words.
- When you are satisfied, recopy the poem onto clean notebook paper.
- Center your cinquain on the paper.
- Begin each line with a capital letter, and remember your commas. Do not use ending punctuation.
- When finished, double-check for concreteness!
Line A. _______
Line B. _______ , _______
Line C. _______ , _______, _______
Line D. _______ _______ _______ _______
Line E. _______
If your kids like creating cinquain poems, why not try some of these?
Copyright © 2015 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Public domain image courtesy of NASA
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